Court to Hear Challenge to Wolf Budget

Member Group : Commonwealth Foundation

Commonwealth Partners
Contact: Gina Diorio, 862-703-6670
[email protected]

Court Sets Hearing Date in Lawsuit Challenging Wolf’s Illegal Budgeting
Hearing Scheduled for December 12 in Harrisburg

HARRISBURG, December 6, 2017–If a driver is stopped for speeding, can he or she claim the speeding charge is moot because the car is now stopped? Hardly. Yet, Gov. Wolf and several state officials are attempting a similar argument when it comes to violating the state constitution by passing an unbalanced budget.

On Tuesday, December 12, the Commonwealth Court will hold a hearing on whether Wolf, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, Treasurer Joe Torsella, and Senators Jake Corman and Joe Scarnati can still be held accountable for illegally passing an unbalanced budget and enabling deficit spending, now that revenue bills have been enacted. As of now, House leaders have not joined in the effort to have the court dismiss this constitutional concern.

The hearing will take place Tuesday, December 12, at 10:00 a.m. in Courtroom 3002, Third Floor, Pennsylvania Judicial Center, 601 Commonwealth Avenue, Harrisburg.

“At issue is whether Gov. Wolf and our elected officials can brazenly violate the state constitution and get away with it,” commented Matthew Brouillette, president and CEO of Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs. “Gov. Wolf, the General Assembly, the Auditor General, and the Treasurer all acted illegally by creating a $2.2 billion deficit and unconstitutionally loaning monies to the general fund. To try to evade accountability by claiming to have ‘fixed’ the problem because a revenue plan was passed in October makes as much sense as fighting a speeding ticket because your car is now stopped.”

Brouillette, along with Rep. Jim Christiana (R-Beaver) and Harrisburg-area small businessman Ben Lewis filed the lawsuit in September, asking the court to uphold the state constitution’s balanced budget requirement, which mandates that state spending must not exceed revenues.

For two consecutive years beginning in 2016, Gov. Wolf and the General Assembly violated the constitution by allowing unbalanced budgets to become law. Throughout the 2016-17 fiscal year, as revenues regularly fell short of projections, Wolf refused to freeze or reduce spending. This year, facing a budget deficit greater than $1.5 billion, Wolf again agreed to a budget that spends beyond revenue.

Meanwhile, this illegal budgeting has harmed Pennsylvanians. Citing deficits and late budgets, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the state’s bond rating, and Pennsylvanians have also been forced to pay interest to the State Treasury for money unlawfully borrowed to make ends meet.

“In each of the last two years, Wolf and state officials have flagrantly ignored the constitutional balanced budget mandate,” Brouillette continued. “Short of court intervention, there’s nothing stopping them from breaking the law again next year and thinking they can get away with it provided they claim to ‘make it right’ before taxpayers have their voice heard in court. Gov. Wolf and all our elected officials took an oath to uphold the constitution, not evade it. We look forward to asking the court to hold our lawmakers accountable to their oath of office.”

Legal Documents
• Petition for Review
• Description of Legal Counts
Matthew Brouillette is available for comment. Please contact Gina Diorio at [email protected] or 862-703-6670 to arrange an interview.

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Commonwealth Partners is an independent, non-partisan, 501(c)(6) membership organization dedicated to improving the economic environment in Pennsylvania.